Toilet Learning Accidents Will Happen: Successful Ways to Cope

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Here are a few quick, basic tips for toilet learning success:

Dressing Your Child for Success

Overalls and pants with buttons are often difficult for children to master when they’re rushing to the bathroom. Try dressing your child in clothes that are easy to pull up or down, dresses for girls, or elastic-waist pants for everyone. Sweats are a great toilet learning choice. They absorb more of the mess during accidents, so there is less for you to clean off the floor. Sweats are easy to wash, and your child will be able to get them off quickly, too.

Making It to the Bathroom in Time

Sometimes your child will tell you, “I have to go. I have to go.” But somehow her feet just won’t move. Yell, “Hurry to the potty and I’ll count how long it takes you to go.” Now start counting. At least if the accident is in the bathroom, it’s easier to clean up than one on the carpet.

If your child is doing the “pee pee dance,” unable to talk without wiggling around or folded in some contorted position, she probably has to go. Don’t even ask, “Do you have to go to the bathroom?” You’ll lose too much time. Take her by the hand, head for the facilities and sing, “Let’s go potty.” Any tune will do.

Too Many Accidents?

If your child is continually having accidents and rarely making it to the potty, perhaps it’s too early to start toilet learning. Try diapers or pull-ups again, and continue to watch for signs that she is ready. You can still encourage her to tell you when she needs a change. This way she is letting you know that she has gone and that’s the first step in learning anyway. Your child has to recognize that he has “done it” and to learn to “hold it.”

Also, if your child seems frustrated or you’re upset, stop. It won’t confuse your child if you stop and start again when she is ready or when you’re ready. Sometimes a few months or even weeks can make the learning process happen almost effortlessly overnight. Relax — children don’t go to college in diapers.

Situational Accidents

When your child is tense about things that are happening in her life, such as a new home or sibling, she may have more accidents. That’s normal. When life smooths out, so will the accidents. Keep your cool.

If your child is having lots of accidents when she starts preschool or child care, it may be that she is anxious about the new situation. Or, it may just be that she doesn’t know how to ask to go to the bathroom or is embarrassed to tell the teacher and/or go to the bathroom around other children. Talk to your child’s teacher.

Remember, you are not alone in your toilet learning struggles! Every parent goes through it. Remind yourself that "this too shall pass."

Bright Horizons
About the Author
Bright Horizons
Bright Horizons
In 1986, our founders saw that child care was an enormous obstacle for working parents. On-site centers became one way we responded to help employees – and organizations -- work better. Today we offer child care, elder care, and help for education and careers -- tools used by more than 1,000 of the world’s top employers and that power many of the world's best brands
A child at the top of a slide